The Gatekeeper

1. The Gathering, the Duel, and the Demons

On the origin of the Worldwalkers, Guardians of the Gatekeeper

This story is, as they all are, about a girl: Ysabelle. She’s a kalashtari girl with no clear path, no remembered past, and (if her enemies have their way) no living future. Which is where the rest of us come in, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The story begins in Sigil.

What a child was doing wandering the streets of such a dangerous city, no one could say, but soon enough she met a protector: the elf-blooded dragonborn paladin Tristan Evensong. Tristan was in Sigil for his own reasons, but he knew an important cause when he met one. Moved by his own sense of duty and honor, he swore to protect Ysabelle against whatever unknown dangers might be pursuing her.

And there were dangers.

Four others came to meet Ysabelle along their own means, for very different reasons. The former-thief-turned- monk Brandis was dispatched on a mission for his master Funikashi to find and protect Ysabelle, who held some measure of import to the monastery. Allied with him came the dangerous Razor, a goblin avenger sworn to the Raven Queen, goddess of Death, who served with Brandis for reasons of his own. The goblin more-or-less under his control, Brandis kept a firm purpose in mind: protect the girl at all costs.

Then came the mercenaries: the stormsoul genasi warlord J’Div and the shadar-kai swordmage Vayne, planar sellswords hired to find and return Ysabelle to a mysterious silver-haired patron. As it turned out, said patron was not interested in “protecting” Ysabelle, but they only had their suspicions at that point—besides, the life of a sellsword sometimes requires a little moral blindness.

The six converged on a lonely tavern in Sigil, all competing over a single interest: Ysabelle.

When the heroes first met, we sussed out very quickly that we were after the same thing. Tristan, who had no intention of giving up his ward, stood firm against Vayne and J’Div, who were poised to take her. Vayne convinced him to fight a duel over the girl. Whoever won would take Ysabelle, and the demands of honor would be met. The duel’s dishonorable beginning set the tone: Vayne immediately hurled her sword into Tristan’s face, which he barely parried away. For the rest of the duel, she used her guile and her shadar-kai abilities to best effect, absorbing Tristan’s greatest attacks into her shadow form and often teleporting where he couldn’t reach. Frustrated, Tristan struck again and again, and Vayne only laughed at the wicked wounds he dealt her.

It was a protracted fight, between the scrappy shadar-kai and the honorable paladin.
J’Div subtly supported Vayne, shouting inspiring words, while Ysabelle blasted Vayne with psychic attacks that she barely fended off. Meanwhile, Razor set a tracking spell upon her, so that he’d never lose her whatever happened, and Brandis positioned himself to grab her in the confusion. Ultimately, Vayne went down to one knee and feigned to yield, but when Tristan came forward to help her up, she kneed him between the legs; an underhanded strike absorbed by his thick codpiece. Clearly, he’d fallen prey to that particular trick before and wasn’t about to suffer it again. He responded to that by smacking Vayne in the face hard enough to draw blood, which made her giddy in the way only a shadar-kai might become at great pain.

Ysabelle herself called a halt to the duel before it could properly end. The six adjourned to a room in the tavern, where they discussed matters. Tristan interpreted the duel as having ended in his favor, so he kept custody of Ysabelle, but Vayne argued that the duel hadn’t properly ended, and they still had unfinished business. Until then, their interests aligned, so she and J’Div would go along with them and protect Ysabelle. They’d proved themselves effective protectors thus far, so Tristan agreed uneasily.

Before the full details could be determined, a flock of vrocks and other demons arrived, seeking to take Ysabelle for themselves. The heroes set aside their differences to work together to destroy the threat, but the demons kept coming. Worse, a hulking goristro appeared, which tore apart the tavern to get at the girl. A tiefling (one of the patrons) appeared and offered a way out: a portal upstairs Brandis and Razor took Ysabelle while Tristan and Vayne covered the retreat, with J’Div offering healing support to both sides. The oddly matched shadar-kai and elf-dragon proved an excellent team, covering the heroes’ retreat. Of particular note was Vayne’s magic summoning a dimensional vortex to turn a goristro’s attack from Brandis to one of the vrocks.

The heroes hurried through the portal, finding themselves in a fiery tunnel through the Elemental Chaos. They fought their way across, only to awaken deep under water . . .

TO BE CONTINUED!

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